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U.S. and Russia: Expanding the “Reset” to Cyberspace

Cybersecurity Coordinator and Special Assistant to the President, Howard A. Schmidt discusses the steps the administration is taking to reduce cybersecurity vulnerabilities through active diplomacy and international technical collaboration.

Many are familiar with our work on behalf of the President to reduce cybersecurity vulnerabilities, such as hardening government systems and building public awareness about cybersecurity for end-users.  But what you don’t always hear about are our efforts to reduce the overall risk to our national networks through active diplomacy and international technical collaboration.  Both are key efforts for realizing the President’s International Strategy for Cyberspace (pdf) released in May.

Risk reduction is crucially important to our relationship with Russia, where we continue regular policy coordination at the highest levels, including on issues related to cybersecurity.  Just last month we hosted a Russian delegation, led by my counterpart, Russian National Security Council Deputy Secretary Nikolay Klimashin, for another round of in-depth discussions here in Washington.  Joined by senior officials from across the U.S. and Russian governments, our goal was to continue building mutual confidence in our two governments’ activities in cyberspace to reduce the risk of misperception and inadvertent crisis.  It’s a prime example of the “Reset” in U.S.-Russia relations taking on a new and important dimension.

Both the U.S. and Russia are committed to tackling common cybersecurity threats while at the same time reducing the chances a misunderstood incident could negatively affect our relationship.  We’re actively working on doing so in numerous ways:  through regular exchanges of information on technical threats to both sides like botnets; by better understanding each other’s military views on operating in cyberspace; and by establishing 24/7 systems allowing us to communicate about cybersecurity issues via our existing and highly successful crisis prevention communications links between our two capitals.  We plan to have all three mechanisms established by year’s end.  Through progress like this, our countries are leading the way in developing pro-active bi-lateral measures that use cyberspace to more broadly enhance our national, and international security.

You can read the joint statement Deputy Secretary Klimashin and I issued about the meeting here (pdf).